• U.S.

The Nation: Who’s Who in the Watergate Mess

6 minute read

SMOOTH, well-connected, brainy, successful in all that they had done, they reached enviable positions of power in American political life. By dint of hard work, some luck and fierce loyalty to Richard Nixon, they had earned the President’s trust. Yet last week they were a forlorn group, implicated in willfully or naively subverting the political process. The men involved in the Watergate scandal include several who are household names and others who may soon yearn for the obscurity that they once had. Among them:

JOHN MITCHELL, 59, former director of the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (C.R.P.) and a onetime law partner of Richard Nixon’s in the Manhattan firm of Nixon Mudge Rose Guthrie and Mitchell. A dour, pipe-puffing municipal-bond lawyer, Mitchell was also Nixon’s closest political confidant. As Attorney General from 1969 until early 1972, he was the exemplar of the tough law-and-order man, who claimed the authority to tap the telephone of anyone whom he considered a security risk.

Mitchell left the Justice Department in March 1972, to direct Nixon’s re-election campaign. His tenure at C.R.P. was brief. In a well-publicized yet ultimately unconvincing marital spat shortly after the Watergate breakin, Mitchell’s loquacious wife Martha threatened to leave him unless he got out of what she called the “dirty” business of politics. Mitchell left C.R.P. but remained close to the President.

JEB STUART MAGRUDER, 38, formerly deputy campaign director of C.R.P. A Californian who looks as if he could pose for old Arrow-shirt ads, Magruder was president of a small cosmetics firm before he entered politics. He was coordinator of Nixon’s 1968 campaign in Los Angeles, went to Washington in 1969 as a special assistant to the President. He was a favorite of White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman.

Magruder joined C.R.P. early last year and hoped for a political career, aiming to run for Secretary of State of California next year and Governor or U.S. Senator in 1978. But he was forced to abandon his plans after his involvement in political espionage came out during the Watergate trial. His heart was set on a high Administration post after the election, but Haldeman told him that he would not be in line for a top position (which would require Senate confirmation) because he was too tainted by Watergate. Disappointed, he settled for a specially created but vague job as director of planning and evaluation at the Commerce Department.

JOHN WESLEY DEAN III, 34, Counsel to the President and the man who conducted the investigation of the Watergate case that cleared all White House staffers. A lawyer who has hardly practiced privately, clean-cut Dean worked as minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. He gained such a reputation as a Nixon loyalist that in 1969 he was hired by the Justice Department as its legislative liaison man. Highly recommended by almost every Administration official with whom he came into contact, Dean caught the eye of image-oriented people at the White House, and in 1970 moved over there to succeed John Ehrlichman as counsel. He has outlined the legal basis for Nixon’s decisions to impound funds voted by Congress and to expand the doctrine of executive privilege.

H.R. (for Harry Robbins) HALDEMAN, 46, White House chief of staff. A crew-cut Southern Californian who neither smokes nor drinks, “Bob” Haldeman was once a vice president of the J. Walter Thompson ad agency in Los Angeles. He is a longtime Nixon loyalist, who advised the former Vice President against running for Governor of California, then bravely managed his disastrous 1962 campaign. One of the most formidable members of Nixon’s palace guard, Haldeman wields enormous power, passing along presidential orders and ideas to the rest of the staff. His humorlessness and determination to protect the President from outsiders have made him unpopular with Congress.

MAURICE STANS, 65, director of C.R.P.’s finance committee. A self-made millionaire accountant, Stans joined the Nixon Administration as Secretary of Commerce in 1969. By urging import quotas, easier pollution controls and less stringent consumer-protection standards, he accumulated a sheaf of political lOUs from businessmen. When he left Commerce last year, he began calling them in, advising businessmen to make large cash or stock contributions to the campaign. They could do that secretly, he noted, by making their gifts before a tough campaign-fund disclosure law took effect in April 1972. Stans’ efforts got C.R.P. into trouble with the federal courts, which fined the committee $8,000 for violating the disclosure law by making campaign expenditures without accounting for them.

HERBERT KALMBACH, 51, the President’s personal lawyer. He was in charge of disbursing large amounts of Republican Party secret funds for political intelligence work. Kalmbach, a Californian and a close friend of Haldeman’s, handled the legal work and financial arrangements when Nixon bought his seaside home in San Clemente and has been an active Nixon fund raiser. When skittish San Diego businessmen were hesitant about bankrolling the Republican National Convention planned for their city, Kalmbach’s firm got a letter from the Justice Department assuring them that their contributions would be tax deductible. By doing good for Nixon, Kalmbach has done well for himself. In 1968, he had only three other attorneys in his office and few major clients. Now he has 24 attorneys and a list of some 200 clients.

FRED LaRUE, 44, special assistant to the C.R.P. director. Short and spectacled, LaRue is a Mississippi oil and real estate millionaire, who joined C.R.P. as a chief aide to Mitchell in 1972. Respected by Nixon intimates for his political savvy, secretiveness and loyalty, and valued for his connections to Southern Democrats, he was considered Mitchell’s right-hand man at C.R.P. He is reported by sources close to the Watergate case to have helped destroy records linking C.R.P. with the bugging.

DWIGHT CHAPIN, 32, a former White House aide who, among other things, helped to coordinate the President’s daily schedule. Chapin worked as assistant to Haldeman at the J. Walter Thompson office in Los Angeles. He joined the White House staff in 1969 and left after the public disclosure of his involvement with C.R.P.’s “dirty tricks department” but denies that he was forced to resign. He is now director of market planning for United Air Lines.

GORDON STRACHAN, 29, former staff aide to Haldeman. A member of the Southern California group—which includes Haldeman, Magruder, Chapin and Ziegler—Strachan (pronounced Strawn) worked for Nixon’s Manhattan law firm, then followed the President and Mitchell to Washington in 1970. Known around the White House as “one of Haldeman’s guys,” he served as liaison between Haldeman’s office and C.R.P. during 1972, and was in constant touch with Mitchell and Magruder. He left the White House last December and is now general counsel to the U.S. Information Agency.

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